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Why ATVN is a great case study for how to create engaging Gen Z content

[One-sentence description of what this media is: "A photo of a vaccine site on USC campus" or "Gif of dancing banana". Important for accessibility/people who use screen readers.]

Hi again, friends! It’s one of your favorite producers, back with another production blog installment.

This week we’re chatting about all things Gen Z… specifically how we can get more of y’all to watch the news! As a member of the generation in question, I have a natural inclination to pitch and develop stories that are of interest to myself and my peers. But thinking about where I’m finding these ideas has helped me realize the key to Gen Z – digging up stories they really care about.

As a proud #TeamMonday member, I spend a lot of my Sunday afternoons thinking about my show the next day… I’m a news junkie by nature, so this starts with mindlessly watching NBC until I realize it’s been hours and the same episode of Dateline has looped four times (seriously, just ask my poor roommates who probably hear Lester Holt’s voice in their sleep).

While I’m accidentally slipping into a true crime rabbit hole, I also mindlessly scroll through social media. Not because I’m a serial procrastinator, but because the best way to find content that Gen Z wants to see is to go straight to the source. My favorite story pitches developed from things I saw while browsing that simply piqued my interest.

The way I see it, if I’m curious about something, chances are my audience will be too.

As an example: A few weeks ago, I saw an Instagram post being shared across multiple peoples’ stories. It was a crudely drawn poster reading, “…Last-minute protest! … Express your opinions with a CBS documentary crew … NO FILTERS, NO BULL****!”

So as a nosy young woman with a show to fill the next day, I sent the account owner a message inquiring about the event and found out that a CBS documentary crew would indeed be visiting to cover the USC protests. We got an interview with the filmmaker and the protest organizers, which turned into a more niche story that was part of a bigger segment.

In another instance, my co-producer Amy and I both caught word that fentanyl was popping up in drugs being sold around campus… again, through Instagram (students were sharing warning messages on their stories). We dug into this and found that a student-run organization was handing out free test strips to the USC family.

These two examples show how important it is to invest yourselves in the age group and the community you’re trying to cover. Amy and I take a lot of care to source our stories from our peers. We both think that a large reason why young professionals and students don’t engage with the news is that they don’t feel represented. It’s important to cover the less Gen Z-based issues too, but making sure we’re hitting the more niche stories helps to build a sense of community with our audience.

This story was written as an assignment in JOUR403: Television News Production with Professor Stacy Scholder. Annenberg Media student editors also reviewed the story and published it per newsroom guidelines.